Meet Microsoft’s AI-powered App that Gives Sight to the Blind

AI is doing implausible things all over the world and the landscape has become quite competitive in the recent times with tech giants – Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, and Google among others – jockeying against each other for the top spot.

In that regard, Microsoft, on Wednesday, released an app named Seeing AI that basically helps the visually impaired identify things around them by scanning their environs, through a smartphone camera or some sorts of smart glasses, and using computer vision narrates whatever is on sight.

The initiator Saqib Shaikh, who lost his eyesight at a tender age of 7 years, had been contemplating about something that could help the blind and partially blind persons understand things around then, since the days he was in college. He developed taste for computer programing at a young age, during his time at a blind’s school where he was taken after the unspeakable ordeal. Saqib would later become a software engineer and has been working at Microsoft in a similar capacity, for 10 years now.

The sightless Saqid teamed with fellow AI enthusiasts at Microsoft with whom he has been working with on the Seeing AI app. Last year, in March to be precise, the tech giant teased the promising app, unveiling a prototype. However, the official release had not come until on Wednesday when the company sent out the smart app to the public – exclusive to iOS users, unfortunately. Whether or when the AI-run application will come to Android is still up in the air.

On to how it works; Seeing AI app describes people and objects, identifies household items by scanning barcodes, reads out short texts and identifies currencies among other things. The app defines people in totality; it will tell whether the person sitting right in front is a male or a female, their skin color, whether they are frowning or smiling…essentially everything including approximating someone’s age.

As far as reading text snippets is concerned, the AI-based app scans pictures of texts taken via the smartphone cameras and reads them out. Furthermore, it helps adjust the camera so that the whole text can be covered in the photo. Besides, it has been optimized to cover highlighted texts like headings whenever you do not want to delve into the entire writing.

You can give it a spin right here, just keep in mind that it’s an iPhone app, preferably iPhone 6S or higher for optimal performance.

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